Editor’s Note: Over the span of 10 weeks – and concluding on August 17, the day the founding documents were signed, though the organization’s “official” birthdate is August 22 — founder Glenn Hening tells the story of creating the Surfrider Foundation 30 years ago this summer.

Author’s Note: The abridged version of this piece appeared in Surfer’s Journal Vol. 13 #3. My thanks to Steve Pezman and Scott Hulet for printing it in 2004 on Surfrider’s 20th anniversary.

The original Surfrider Foundation logo. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

The original Surfrider Foundation logo. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

It was one thing to dream up a non-profit organization of surfers ready to take on the world. It was something else to make it legal. By early August, Surfrider was ready to go. It was time to file with the Feds — until a quick canvas of the team sobered me up a bit.

Nobody wanted to sign the founding papers. Mortgages, wives, tax problems — everybody had a reason of one sort or another. Even Tom Pratte wanted to hedge his bets and not jeopardize his gig with the W.S.A. In the end, there was only one person left on the peak as the set approached: me.

After a meeting with Tim Flynn, and a long heart-to-heart with my wife cradling our daughter in her arms, there was no turning back. Tom and Dan helped with some of the language in the articles of incorporation, and everything was ready on August 17, 1984. I showed up early, and read the document. It was all there, though I had one question: “What does ‘agent for service of process’ mean?”

“That’s for the IRS,” said Tim. “They need to know who is going to take full responsibility if something goes wrong.”

I thought for a second back to the Canyon, to my daughter, to Malibu and the future of riding waves. Surfing had done a lot for me, and it was time to do something in return.

“Where do I sign?” I replied, and a minute later, the Surfrider Foundation was born.

The San Francisco founding documents. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

The Santa Monica founding documents. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

In mid-September Lance, Tom and I were standing by the phone booths overlooking first point. It was getting dark, the surf was terrible, and the whole scene was quite discouraging. “I can’t believe how bad a wave it is now,” I said, still wet from a quick go-out in the three to four foot slop.

“And what they’re draining into the ocean is probably pretty dirty,” said Tom.

“Well, we won’t have to worry about getting sick,” said Lance sarcastically, “The place isn’t worth surfing anymore anyway!”

“We gotta do something, don’t we?” I said. Lance and Tom both nodded.

“This time we gotta make sure they won’t ignore us,” said Lance.

Tom knew exactly what to do. “I’ll request a community meeting and we’ll fill the place with surfers.”

Want to find out what happened next? Tune in this coming Sunday, August 3, for Part 8: Defending Malibu. And catch up on the series below.

Dawn Patrol: Creating Surfrider In The Summer of ’84

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 2: The Birth Of The Baby and The Impala’s Opinion

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 3: In The Shadow of The Torch — Brainstorming At The Olympics

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 4: Who Do We Know With A Big Name?

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 5: A Surfing Pioneer Joins The Team

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 6: Filling Out The Team


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